Tuesday, 26 February 2013

On avoiding the diva trap...

When I called this blog "Diva on a Dare" I wasn't seriously calling myself a diva.  I intended for the title to be a bit tongue-in-cheek.  Because actually?  Nobody wants to be a diva.  I try pretty hard to avoid being a diva, and I'd like to think that most of the time I succeed.

What is a diva exactly?  Seen in a positive light, a diva is someone majorly talented.  The star of the show.  They're confident and assertive.  They know what they want and they're not afraid to ask.

They also tend to call themselves things like "fierce".
But most of the time when we use the word "diva" we don't think of that.  We think of someone difficult and demanding.  Someone who makes ridiculous requests, like asking a big bowl of blue M&Ms in their dressing room.  A diva is rude, confrontational, self-centred, and inconsiderate.  The very worst kind of person to work with.

Like I said, I try to avoid being a diva.  I'm pretty sure every singer out there tries as well.  But if we're being perfectly honest here, when things get tricky, we sometimes have our diva moments.

Why does this happen?  Why do we end up acting like a diva even when we're trying ever-so-hard to be polite, considerate, humble, friendly, and down-to-earth?

There are a lot of possible factors that can lead to a diva moment.  Maybe you're dealing with a difficult work situation.  Maybe there's been a breakdown in communication.  Maybe things aren't going the way you want, and you feel frustrated.

Or maybe you need to have a Snickers bar.
Whatever the deal is, you know that acting like a diva is not going to help.  If you're struggling to communicate with your colleagues, throwing a big hissy fit will only make matters worse.  It's important to think of the people around you.  To be patient and agreeable.  To be understanding.  To play well with others.  You know all of this.  But sometimes, when you're tired, fed up, stressed out, hungry, or all of the above - you forget.

I had a diva moment this week.  We were working very intensely in the studio, staging a one-act opera within seven days.  The days were long and tough.  And the director worked in a way that's very different from what I'm accustomed to.  Throughout the week I was becoming increasingly frustrated and stressed out by his staging process.  One particular evening, I was really fuming.  I didn't realise it, but I was quite obviously in a huff.

Like this monkey who didn't get his way.
Luckily, the director was perceptive enough to see that I was unhappy and asked what was wrong.  I told him what the problem was.  And the next day he worked things out and everything became much clearer.  But on reflection, I was rather embarrassed by my behaviour that evening.  I realised that I had overstepped the line.  I had crossed over from the land of the reasonable to the land of Diva-dom.

We've all been there.  Am I right?  And the worst part is, you never realise it's happening until it's too late.  So how do you prevent it?  How do you stop yourself from acting like a diva?  Well, I've thought about this a lot and I've come up with some key tools to help you stay out of the diva trap.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...

The Anti-Diva Kit

1. The first tool is Communication.  It's so SO important to keep a dialogue with your colleagues and your employer about what is happening at all times.  Most importantly, if you're unhappy or confused, SAY SOMETHING.  And don't wait until you're so frustrated that you can't be polite and diplomatic about it.  The more you communicate, ask questions, and explain your side of things, the more likely it is you'll avoid confusion and conflict down the line.  If I had been more communicative with this director from the beginning, I'm sure I could have avoided acting like a diva.

2.  Secondly, you need Understanding.  Put yourself in other people's shoes.  Perhaps you're not the only person struggling here.  What kinds of challenges are your colleagues dealing with?  How could you be more considerate, sensitive, and helpful towards them?  Try to treat others the way that you would like to be treated.  No man is an island, and we all need to help each other out now and then.

3.  Right, so we all need to vent sometimes.  This is why you need the third tool: your Sounding Board.  This is a person who is totally removed from the situation and who you can safely vent to.  Your Sounding Board could be your best friend, it could be your mom, it could be several different people.  The important thing is that they are NOT a colleague who's involved in the same project.  They are a third party, and they're basically impartial.  They love you enough to listen and nod sympathetically, but they won't chime in with your complaints, or disagree vehemently, or tell person X what you said about them.  My boyfriend is my Sounding Board.  When I need to vent, he hears all about it over skype (poor guy).

4. Finally, when all else fails, you need a Diva Alarm.  This is a friend who loves and respects you enough to be honest with you.  When you're being unreasonable, overly-negative, self-centred, insensitive, or whatever, others might pretend to agree with you, but you can trust this person to tell it like it is.  Do you think you might be acting a bit like a diva?  Ask your Diva Alarm.  They will keep you in check and say "STOP!  Diva alert!"

Here are some other reasons you might need to stop.
This is the Anti-Diva Kit I've assembled, and like everything, it's a work in progress.  I don't always remember all the tools, or use them in the right way.  I'm sure there are some other helpful tools that could be added to the Kit later down the line.  But I'm learning as I go, and so far these are the ones that work for me.  May they serve you well.

 Despite the best intentions, we all have moments when our emotions get the better of us.  Moments when we turn into a diva.  But with good communication, understanding, and the support of friends and family, you can keep your inner diva in check.  You can deal with stress, get along with others, and continue being the kind of colleague you would want to work with.

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